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Tradition and Reality in the "Taktika" of Nikephoros Ouranos Author(s): Eric McGeer Reviewed work(s): Source: Dumbarton Oaks

Papers, Vol. 45 (1991), pp. 129-140 Published by: Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1291697 . Accessed: 14/03/2013 09:16
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Tradition and Reality in the Taktika of Nikephoros Ouranos


The the last of the taktika/strategika inspired by the

of Nikephoros Ouranos stands as Taktika

revival of military science in tenth-century Byzantium and the last in the long tradition of Greek military writings dating from Antiquity.' It is a vast compilation of classical and Byzantine tacticians in 178 chapters that has never been edited in full, although various excerpts have been published.2 During the 1930s the French scholar Alphonse Dain laid the foundations for a complete edition when he identified the text and compiler-unrecognized up to that time-and provided a detailed analysis of the contents, sources, and manuscripts;3 but he never realized his announced ambition to publish the Taktikain its entirety. In the fifty years since Dain's monograph appeared, the Taktikahas attracted little further interest, and it remains among the least known of the texts in the corpus of militaria. It is not simply the lack of an edition, however, that has consigned the text to obscurity for so long. As a philologist, Dain deemed the Taktikaa compilation of considerable value for the reconstruction of the tradition of classical and Byzantine military literature, but his pronouncement that the Taktika had no original military historical worth has surely played a part in limiting scholarly interest. He regarded the work as a sterile Byzantine paraphrase and Ouranos as a faultlessly Byzantine compiler who, despite his outstanding military ca'For a survey of this literature, see A. Dain, "Les strat6gistes byzantins," TM 2 (1967), 317-93, and H. Hunger, "Kriegswissenschaft," in Die hochsprachliche profane Literatur der Byzantiner (Vienna, 1978), II, 321-40. 2Works in which sections of the Taktikahave been published are listed by Dain, "Les strat6gistes," 371; to this list should be added Dain's edition of Taktika54 and 119-23 in Naumachica (Paris, 1943), 69-104, and de Foucault's edition of chapters 6374 (cited below, note 25). 3La Tactiquede Niciphore Ouranos (Paris, 1937).

reer, never dreamed of sullying his work with observations drawn from his own experience.4 In Dain's view, the text and its compiler exemplified the barrenness of the Byzantine military treatises, and his opinion has prevailed ever since. Although not wholly unjustified, Dain's judgment is too sweeping. It has led scholars to overlook within the Taktika a potentially valuable source on Byzantine warfare in northern Syria at the beginning of the eleventh century written by Ouranos during his tenure as governor of Antioch. It is the purpose of this paper to demonstrate that the Taktikadoes contain, in chapters 56-65, a section treating contemporary field and siege tactics which bears the distinct imprint of Ouranos' own military experience. The arguments in support of this contention will begin with a systematic review of Ouranos' career, to be followed by an analysis of chapters 56-65 of the Taktika,with particular emphasis on two technical terms used by the author in his discussion of siege operations. In conclusion, Ouranos' observations on the utility of the classical handbooks on siege warfare will be discussed for the light they shed on the balance between theory and practice in the Byzantine handbooks of the later tenth century. Nikephoros Ouranos played a prominent role in the reign of Basil II, first as a confidant of the young emperor and an ally against Basil Lekapenos, later as a successful military commander in the west, and finally as a trustworthy governor of Antioch whose capable surveillance of the east left Basil a free hand against Bulgaria. He also enjoyed a reputation as a man of letters and, apart from
4Cf. Dain, "Les strat6gistes," 318, and La Tactique,144; these judgments are routinely repeated in other surveys of the military treatises.

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ERIC McGEER chosen, much against his will, to head an embassy to Baghdad to conclude an agreement securing the return of Skleros. The sources record that because he attempted either to poison Skleros or negotiate secretly with him, Ouranos aroused suspicion and was incarcerated, but behind his misfortunes looms the hand of the parakoimomenos.1' He escaped or was released shortly after Skleros was let go (late in 986), and returned to the fall of his Constantinople about 987-after nemesis Basil Lekapenos. Following his return to the capital, he continued both to enjoy and to justify the emperor's favor. The Diatyposis of Athanasios, dating between 987 and 999, records that Ouranos was the first to be made lay guardian (icQtgonog) of the Great Lavra on Mount Athos, and a chrysobull of Constantine IX Monomachos, issued in 1052, recalls his capable fulfillment of this office."1 But his most celebrated exploit was the destruction of the Bulgar army under the tzar Samuel in 996/7, a victory that virtually eliminated the Bulgar threat to Greece."2 When the invading Bulgars defeated and killed the doux of Thessaloniki and then poured into central Greece, Basil appointed Ouranos Domestic of the Schools of the West (ndogrl LQXWv)'3 63o0eg and sent him in pursuit. Although there is no evidence that Ouranos possessed any previous miliany case, demonstrated loytary experience-in actual military ability in more than alty weighed Basil's selection of commanders-he displayed great skill and energy in overtaking the Bulgars at
0 was Basil Lekapenos who had arranged for Ouranos to It be sent to Baghdad as a means of ousting a powerful rival vying for influence over Emperor Basil II; see W. G. Brokkaar, "Basil Lecapenus: Byzantium in the Tenth Century," Studia byzantina et neohellenicaneerlandica8 (1972), 199-234, esp. 224-34. "See P. Lemerle et al., Actes de Lavra, I (Paris, 1970), 19-21 and 189-92. '2Skylitzes, pp. 341.23-342.51; Zonaras, pp. 558.12-559.10. '3A document from the Athonite monastery tou Vatopediou, dated 1001, recalls Ouranos' mediation in a quarrel between this monastery and tou Philadelphou; since the text reads 6 ()V T 6 X0Q idyLgTQOg TLVLXa1XtOT NLXrl60og, nCtlvE4TOg between to the must refer it period 8OicoJrxOg T-v oXoX6ov, 996/7 and 999 when Ouranos was Domestic of the Schools. See M. Goudas, Bitavttax? EyyQa4catrig v L6(g OVTg TOO "AOAo BaTo3uE&ov, 'ET.'ET.Buv.Xn. 3 (1926), 113-15. I. Jordanov has recently published two seals of a Nikephoros magistrosand Domestic of the Schools, whom he identified as Nikephoros Ouranos, but, as in the case of the seal published by Laurent (note 8 above), the absence of a family name on these seals rules out a positive identification; see Jordanov, "Molybdobulles de Domestiques des Scholes du dernier quart du Xe siecle trouv6s dans la Strategie de Preslav," Studies in Byzantine Sigillography2 (1990), 210-11 (where the cursus honorumshould be revised in light of the foregoing review). A similar specimen was published by G. Zacos, Byzantine Lead Seals, II (Berne, 1984), no. 863.

the Taktika,composed works of poetry, hagiography, and epistolography.5 His career has been outlined in several secondary works, but as no single study has yet collated all the material on this subject, it would be useful to review the evidence that has appeared to date, to which two unpublished seals of Ouranos will be added. Ouranos is first mentioned in the sources as a participant in the negotiations conducted during the early 980s between Basil II and the Buyid emir of Baghdad, Adud al-Dawla, over the extradition of the rebel Bardas Skleros. Skylitzes states that Ouranos led an embassy to Baghdad where both he and Skleros fell under the emir's suspicion and were imprisoned.6 It has been shown, however, that the Greek sources have condensed negotiations of three to four years' duration into a single episode situated in the year 980,7 and testimony from Arab sources indicates that Ouranos traveled to Baghdad at a later date. In response to a first Byzantine embassy dispatched (in 980) to seek the return of Skleros, a Buyid ambassador, Ibn Shahram, journeyed to Constantinople in 982. He wrote a report on his mission in which he referred to Ouranos as the kanikleios(6 0nti to oxavLxXFCov,, or the keeper of the imperial inkstand),8 and portrayed him as an intimate of Basil II and, for that Basil very reason, an enemy of the parakoimomenos Lekapenos.9 Ouranos acted as an intermediary between Ibn Shahram and the emperor, only to be
5Ouranos' known literary works include a parainetic poem, ed. A. Papadopoulos-Kerameus, Biatvtytd 'AvdhExta, BZ (1899), 66-70, with later comments by E. Kurtz, "Das parainetische Alphabet des Nikephoros Ouranos," BZ 25 (1925), 18; a poem on the death of Symeon the Metaphrast, ed. S. G. Mercati, "Versi di Niceforo Uranos in morte de Simeone Metafraste," AnalBoll 68 (1950), 126-34; two hagiographical works, one ed. F. Halkin, "Un opuscule inconnu de Nic6phore Ouranos: La Vie de St. Theodore le conscrit," ibid., 80 (1962), 30824, the other, a vita of St. Symeon Stylites the Younger, in PG 86 (2), cols. 2987-3216 (a reprise of an earlier vita by Arkadios, bishop of Cyprus); and a corpus of 50 letters, ed. J. Darrouzes, Epistoliersbyzantinsdu Xe sikcle(Paris, 1960), 217-48. 6Ioannis Scylitzae Synopsis historiarum,ed. J. Thurn, CFHB 5 (Berlin, 1973), p. 327.30-44. 7j. H. Forsyth, in his masterful dissertation TheByzantine-Arab Chronicle (938-1034) of Yahya b. Said al-Antaki (University of Michigan, 1977), 400-16, gives the most thorough account of these negotiations and the problematic chronology; see also M. Canard, "Deux documents arabes sur Bardas Skleros," Actes du VeCongresd'tudes byzantines(SBN 5) (Rome, 1930), 55-69. 8V. Laurent published a seal of a Nikephoros &vO16nacog t zt xcat xto atxhLEov, whom he identified as Nike3tnacLxtOog centrale phoros Ouranos, in Corpusdes sceaux, II: L'administration (Paris, 1981), no. 219. This identification, tempting as it is, cannot be verified for lack of a family name on the seal. 9Ibn Shahram's report has been translated into English by H. F. Amedroz and D. Margoliouth, The Eclipse of the Abbasid Caliphate,VI (London, 1921), 23-35.

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THE TAKTIKAOF NIKEPHOROS OURANOS the Spercheios River, searching out a crossing, and making an unexpected assault on their camp. Samuel and his son were wounded and escaped death only by hiding beneath the slain; so great was the slaughter that nearly twenty years later Basil could still be awed by the sight of the bones of the Bulgar dead strewn over the field.14 The high point of Ouranos' career was his installation as governor of Antioch by Basil II in December 999 at the conclusion of the emperor's three-month campaign against the Fatimids in Syria and Palestine. In conducting this campaign it had been the emperor's intention to restore the Byzantine position in northern Syria in the wake of the defeat and death of the previous governor of Antioch, Damianos Dalassenos, at the battle of Apamea in July 998, and to compel the Fatimids to sign a peace treaty which would thus leave him free to concentrate on his wars in Bulgaria. With the conclusion of a ten-year truce with Caliph alHakim during the year 1001, Basil achieved his goal to reduce Byzantine military activities in the east in order to embark on a full-scale offensive against Bulgaria.'15 The appointment of Nikephoros Ouranos dovetailed with Basil's aims to stabilize the eastern frontier. His career up to that point had shown him to be a court official and soldier of proven loyalty and competence, well qualified on both counts to supervise the now secondary front. Although the literary sources call him simply the magistrosor the archonof Antioch, an unpublished seal of his (Fogg Art Museum, no. 1576, edited and illustrated below in the Appendix) proclaims him "master of the East" (6 xQat(6v 'AvatoXg), demonstrating in effect Basil's plenipotentiary that Ouranos was Tg in the east. Several episodes from his career at Antioch are known,'6 although the exact chronology is uncertain. He undertook one major expedition
'4Skylitzes, p. 364.76-78. On the fame Ouranos won as a result of this victory, see the letter written to him by Leo of Synada, ed. M. P. Vinson, The Correspondence of Leo, Metropolitanof Synada and Syncellus,CFHB 23 (Washington, D.C. 1985), 22-23, with commentary on 102-3. Chronicle,501-15, surveys Basil's Forsyth, The Byzantine-Arab 15 military and diplomatic activities in northern Syria between 998 and 1000 and the considerations behind Ouranos' appointment as governor of Antioch. The Byzantine-Fatimid contest for domination in northern Syria has lately been studied by W. Farag, "The Aleppo Question: A Byzantine-Fatimid Conflict of Interests in Northern Syria in the Later Tenth Century A.D.," BMGS 14 (1990), 44-60. 16The standard work on the governors of Antioch between 969 and 1084 is by V. Laurent, "La chronologie des gouverneurs d'Antioche sous la seconde domination byzantine," MUSJ 38/10 (1962), 219-54, esp. 235-36 on Ouranos.


into Armenia in 1001-2 to forestall the Georgian king Gurgen's advance into the region of Tao and concluded a settlement with him,"7 but for the most part his military duties took on the character of local police actions. In 1000-1001 he suppressed a revolt by two Bedouin tribes identified as the Noumeritai and Ataphitai in the Greek sources,'8 and during the years 1005-7 he fought a series of engagements against the rebel al-Asfar and his Bedouin allies.'9 After 1007 nothing more is heard of Ouranos directly-the next known of Antioch was in 1011-but governor appointed the renown of his triumph over the Bulgars and his governorship of Antioch persisted well after his lifetime. Skylitzes recounts that when Emperor Michael VI Stratiotikos (1056-57) appointed his nephew Michael governor of Antioch in 1056, "at the time of the nomination he gave him the name Ouranos as though he traced his lineage back to the Ouranos of old, and bestowed upon him the title magistros of Antioch, just as the other had been." 20 For reasons that will become clear below, the composition of the Taktikashould be dated to the years during Ouranos' stay at Antioch. To identify and discuss the section of the Taktikareflecting his military experiences in the east, we must begin with Dain's analysis of the contents and sources of the text.21 He identified four main components in the text, of which the first two were based on Byzantine tactical works: chapters 1-55 were a paraChronicle,557-59. Ouranos had '7Forsyth, The Byzantine-Arab participated in Basil's expedition in 1000 to annex the lands of the deceased Georgian sovereign David (who had pledged them to the Byzantine emperor), as his letter to Leo, anthypatos patrikios and epi tis sakellis, records; see Darrouzes, Epistoliersbyzantins, 226 (no. 19). '8Skylitzes 345.34-43; W. Felix discusses this revolt in Byzanz und die IslamischeWeltimfriiheren 11. Jahrhundert(Vienna, 1981), 51-53. '9Felix, Byzanz, 53-54. A series of letters addressed to Ouranos by Philetos Synadenos congratulating him on his victorious campaigns probably refers to these events; see I)arrouzbs, Epistoliersbyzantins,254-59 (nos. 8-13). 20Skylitzes, p. 483.5-7; cf. Zonaras, III, p. 654.10-11. Michael Psellos' phrase 1ioigQav6oXLog may be another 'AvtL6XELa indication that Ouranos' name was linked with the city of Antioch well after his death; see the Historia Syntomos,ed. and trans. W. J. Aerts, CFHB 30 (Berlin, 1990), p. 98.94 (with Aerts' comments on p. 165). On Michael "Ouranos," see Laurent, "La chronologie," 243. Authentic members of the Ouranos family recorded in the 10th-l th centuries are a 10th-century patrikios Michael Ouranos, mentioned in the De cerimoniis(p. 668.14), and an lth-century kritis Symeon Ouranos, of whom an unpublished metrical seal is preserved in the Dumbarton Oaks collection (DO 55.1.3897). 21Dain, La Tactique,39-91.

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ERIC McGEER re militari,28a treatise written at least twenty-five years after the Praecepta.29 Consequently Dain's hysection of the Praeceptawas that a pothesis missing the basis for chapters 63-74 of the Taktikamust be rejected-the six chapters preserved in the Moscow codex do represent Phokas' treatise in its entirety-and so chapters 56-74 in the Taktikaneed to be reexamined. Of these nineteen chapters, the last nine (66-74) are not linked by common source or subject with the preceding ten and should be grouped instead with chapters 75-175 based on classical tacticians. This leaves chapters 56-65 and the question of their sources, context, and purpose.30 The source of chapters 56-62 has already been accounted for. Nikephoros Phokas wrote the Praecepta militaria as a manual for his army's offensive campaigns against Cilicia and northern Syria in the 960s. Ouranos' version of the text written forty years later shows differences in style, organization, and minor details, but for the most part closely adheres to its model's prescriptions on battle formations and tactics. Ouranos, however, did record a noteworthy adjustment in infantry tactics that must have been introduced after Phokas' time;"3 this change bears witness to Ouranos' intention to keep his text abreast of recent developments where necessary. In turn, his adherence to his predecessor's other tactical precepts must mean that they were still deemed effective and did not require modification for the time being. The succeeding chapters 63-65 take up a variety of topics. Chapter 63 outlines the methods for conducting raids into enemy territory, the type of warfare reminiscent of the guerilla tactics out28H. MihAescu, "Pour une nouvelle edition du trait6 Praecepta militariadu Xe siecle," RSBS 2 (1982), 318-21. CFHB 25 29Ed. G. T. Dennis, ThreeByzantineMilitary Treatises, (Washington, D.C., 1985), 241-335. The date of the treatise cannot be ascertained exactly, but references in the treatise (1.100, 161) to the tagma of the Athanatoi suggest a terminus post quem of 970 when this corps was founded by John Tzimiskes: cf. N. Oikonomides, Les listes de prgsdancebyzantines(Paris, 1972), 332-33. It was most likely composed during the 990s when Basil II resumed the war against Bulgaria after withstanding the rebellions of Bardas Skleros and Bardas Phokas (986-989). Ouranos' use of chapter 20 of the treatise in the Taktika64.4-8 (see previous note) marks a terminus ante quem of 999-1007, the period to which Ouranos' composition of the Taktikashould be assigned. So I have edited these chapters for publication with a new edition of the Praecepta militaria; for the time being it is necessary to consult chapters 56-62 in Monacensis gr. 452 (14th century) and 63-65 in de Foucault's edition (cited above, note 25). Note that the titles of chapters 59 through 64 have not been preserved. 31Discussed in my article "Cavalry versus Infantry: The Byzantine Response," REB 46 (1988), 144-45.

phrase of the Taktikaof Leo VI, followed in chapters 56-74 by a paraphrase of the Praecepta militaria of Nikephoros II Phokas;22 the third and fourth groups (75-175, 176-78) were derived from collections of classical military writings. The second component of Ouranos' Taktika,chapters 56-74, is of primary interest here. It is necessary first of all to correct Dain's mistaken supposition that the Praecepta militaria formed the basis for all of chapters 56-74 of the Taktika.He rightly identified the six chapters comprising the Praecepta as the source for Ouranos' chapters 56-62;23 he then went on, however, to speculate that the succeeding chapters 63-74, for which he claimed to have found no direct source, must represent a paraphrase of a lost continuation of the Praecepta.24 It was in this belief that his longtime colleague J.-A. de Foucault published chapters 63-74 of the Taktikato complete the six chapters of the Praeceptapreserved in a sole codex now in Moscow (State Historical Museum no. 436/298) and thus make available the "full" treatise of Nikephoros Phokas.25 Although Dain's hypothesis won initial acceptance, the arguments that he advanced in its favor are weak and do not withstand close scrutiny.26It can be shown, for instance, that chapters 66-74 are in fact largely derived from the classical tactician Onasander,27 thus making it unnecessary to postulate a lost continuation of the Praeceptaas the source for these chapters. The telling proof against Dain's reconstruction, however, lies in Mihaescu's demonstration that part of chapter 64 of the Taktikais closely based on chapter 20 of the De
22Ed.Ju. A. Kulakovsky, "Strategika imperatora Nikifora," in akademiinauk 8, 9 (St. Petersburg, 1908), 1Zapiskiimperatorskoi 21. 23Ibid., 47-49. 24Ibid., 49-51. de 25J.-A.de Foucault, "Douze chapitres inedits de la Tactique Nic6phore Ouranos," TM 5 (1973), 281-311; all references to the Greek text of chapters 63-65 of the Taktikaare from this edition. 26He assumed, for example, that the Praecepta ended ex abruptobecause of an accident to the manuscript, which in fact he had never seen; the manuscript is not damaged nor is there any reason to suspect that the concluding passage of the Praecepta is mutilated in any way. Dain's studies of the classical and Byzantine tacticians continue to be invaluable contributions to this field, but scholars should be attentive to the many unfounded assumptions and errors in his work. To be fair, however, it should be noted that his survey of the military corpus was left unrevised at his death. 27With the exception of Taktika 67, which is drawn from chapter 45.32 of the Sylloge tacticorum(ca. 950, ed. A. Dain [Paris, 1938]), chapters 66-74 derive (directly or indirectly) from Onasander's treatise on generalship (1st century A.D.).

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THE TAKTIKAOF NIKEPHOROS OURANOS lined by Phokas in the De velitatione.32Now, however, the situation is completely the opposite, for instead of defending their own territory against enemy raiders, the Byzantines are making forays to plunder and devastate Muslim regions, presumably as preventive or punitive strikes against the unruly neighboring populations who continued to harass the Byzantines after peace had been made with the Fatimids. Ouranos' protracted campaigns against al-Asfar's Bedouin followers between 1005 and 1007 probably involved this type of hit-andrun warfare. Chapter 64 discusses two situations: first, how the army should break camp and move out either to engage a waiting enemy or to start on the day's march with the enemy in the vicinity, and second, how it should fight its way through a defile occupied by the enemy. The first situation is not discussed in other manuals, and so the first part of the chapter (64.1-4) represents Ouranos' own account of current tactical prescriptions for armies faced with this problem; the second part (64.5-8), as noted above, is taken directly from chapter 20 of the De re militari.33 is Chapter 65, entitled 1IQ't concerned with siege tactics in xaoGQooXto.tov, and reviews Syria, the necessary steps in a siege campaign from the outset to the end. The commander must begin by devastating the region surrounding the intended objective, and ensuring that the routes into Syria are tightly surveyed and blockaded to cut the defenders off from all supplies of food and other necessities. Once arrived before the enemy fortress, the army must prepare a siege camp; offers of mercy to the defenders should then be extended, which, if refused, should be followed by threats of reprisals against those deciding to hold out. Ouranos goes on to outline the methods he deems best for launching an assault on the walls, and advises the commander, if the defenders' position is hopeless, either to take the fortress by force or to grant the defenders their lives in exchange for their capitulation, after which their persons and goods would be divided among the Byzantine besiegers-harsh terms meant to have an intimidating effect in any subsequent campaigns against other Syrian strongholds. Ouranos is known to have undertaken at least
20On these tactics, see the edition and study of the treatise by G. Dagron, Le traiti sur la guerilla (De velitatione) de l'empereur Niciphore Phocas (963-969) (Paris, 1986). re militari 20.86-141 (ed. Dennis). "33De


one major siege while governor of Antioch,34 and of all the chapters surveyed above, chapter 65 most clearly reveals the distillation of his own experience and observations in his writings on contemporary warfare. This chapter is particularly fascinating not only for the siege tactics he prescribes but also for the glimpses he offers into the conduct of both sides throughout the campaign. He predicts that the blockaded Muslims will broadcast their plight to the faithful in the mosques of their
towns (xai'rliVtOOVLVo ELg g dl adoylcta Q6bgtoig

Syria for aid;35 he then issues a warning that the local Christian population may be among the suppliers: "our people of low station and high, in their love of profit, provide them not only with great quantities of grain and flocks but also with all number and manner of foodstuffs in their possession."36The current political and demographic situation is mirrored in his advice to threaten all Magaritai, Armenians, and Syrians inside the besieged fortress with death unless they cross over to the Byzantines, a passage bearing witness to the varying allegiances of the peoples displaced or relocated in the wake of the Byzantine conquests in Cilicia and northern Syria.37It is also apparent that the Byzantines continued their policy of devastating and depopulating Muslim regions as a means of eliminating the enemy's capacity and will to resist their authority. Taken together, the tactics and procedures outlined in chapters 63-65 portray the type of local warfare and conditions prevailing in the east at the outset of the eleventh century, at a time when the Byzantines had committed their military strength to the subjugation of Bulgaria. I would argue that Ouranos appended these three chapters to his slightly modified version of the Praeceptato form a treatise akin to a Praeceptamilitaria continuata, so to speak, in which he sought to bring Phokas' treatise on battle tactics up to date and to add sections treating the local guerilla, campaign, and siege operations that the Byzantine armies conducted not

and appeal to their co-religionistsin ta'raI3Pdbag)

34During the revolt of al-Asfar; see Felix, Byzanz, 53. 5 Taktika65.4-7; note Ouranos' use of aTa3dbag to refer to the Muslim faithful, obviously an Arabic term that he learned at Antioch. See de Foucault's comments in "Douze chapitres" (above, note 25), 296, note 28. 65.7. 36Taktika 7Taktika65.13; on the movement of populations in the east in the later 10th century, see G. Dagron, "Minorites ethniques et religieuses dans l'orient byzantin a la fin du Xe et au XIe si&cle: L'immigration syrienne," TM 6 (1976), 177-216, esp. 17786, where this passage from the Taktikais cited and discussed.

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TcodTTa is also found in an anonymous treatise on

to conquer new territories in the east but to control those won over the preceding fifty years. In writing chapters 56-65 of the Taktika, Ouranos merged tactical precepts drawn from contemporary treatises with others from his own experience into a handbook detailing the current procedures and operations of the Byzantine army in the east. These ten chapters form a complete treatise within themselves, and as such deserve to be included among the other military handbooks written by active soldiers during the later tenth century, the De velitatione, the Praeceptamilitaria, and the De re militari. Ouranos' pragmatic, firsthand approach makes chapter 65 of the Taktikaan invaluable source for the study of siege tactics, a topic that has received little attention to date despite the considerable role siege operations played in the Byzantine campaigns of conquest during the late tenth and early eleventh centuries. In the east the Byzantines methodically isolated and seized key centers during their advance into Mesopotamia, Cilicia, and northern Syria, a process culminating in the capture of Antioch in 969; in the west Basil II effectively throttled the Bulgars' resistance by targeting crucial strongholds (Vidin, Vodena, Skoplje) in his yearly expeditions. A comprehensive survey of Byzantine siege tactics and weapons is not possible at the present time, however, since most of the Byzantine poliorcetic treatises still lack modern editions, translations, and commentaries. As a result, it seems more advisable here to concentrate on two technical terms used by Ouranos which will show Byzantine siege operations at their most practical. In the Taktika65.11, Ouranos issues instructions on the defenses necessary for the siege camp. The army camped in a square, keeping the infantry along the perimeter to defend the cavalry and baggage train within, and the encampment was to be protected by a trench, as well as other obstacles placed outside the trench:
TO W EV Oo6t, '00(?ECLt 6U yvEGOMO XaLtt oEi000Ev 'vIt CiETWVTat oo150g 3dktLV xact i~E8v Tflg TQLf36tLa T V, av &cQO xoi T o?axoxLa iETa L7dlZ Xatt f3OTdAf

siege warfare known as the De obsidionetoleranda, which dates from the first half of the tenth century.38 In this treatise the defenders of a town about to be besieged are advised to dig a series of trenches before the walls, and then "in addition to these measures they should prepare tzipataoutside the trenches and keep their whereabouts clear to our men, but unknown to the enemy."39The editors of both treatises were perplexed by this word-no less so after consulting Du Cange who lists zT(iCa from the De obsidione and refers the reader to the homophonic T?plta-and declared that they were at a loss to explain the term since none of the meanings proposed (membrana,vena, musculus, pelliculus, all conforming with the modern Greek TO(cna, "membrane," "skin,""crust") satisfied the context. But at a second glance it appears that they overlooked a reference that would have resolved the quandary, for besides these primary meanings Du Cange cites a gloss (from unspecified botanical manuscripts) suited perfectly to the context: xaxtL66vag, Tg Tzctag, that is, equating TrtCawith "cactus barb." It is obvious, then, that in the De obsidione,tzipata must refer to sharp spikes planted in the ground to pierce the feet of enemy soldiers or horses unto tread upon wary-and unfortunate-enough them. The phrase Tztoxtha [tLEdT~1o3tyv in the Taktika,however, implies that these spikes were affixed to some sort of stand, and to determine exactly what is meant, it is helpful to refer to the Taktika of Leo VI.40 In book 11.26 Leo describes a weapon invented by his general Nikephoros Phokas (the grandfather of Emperor Nikephoros II Phokas) during one of his campaigns in Bulgaria: Q kapy ~thLVa O X(V 146LE qv &otoLov. xav6vta biio n ov xktovhap8agaCav ava 8 TQLWv a0UTt o 3LOa T'6XCycp , TEQOV 6UXav6vtLOv ovYLLtE 6oOiCg, XOvcOTLOaitag TOt68VT 7tVTEf' XIt E, TdvLY f O(TU[tLCEL CiEVtc3XOU XEXCOU 3tLOEeSg TQLOCXtLOV rTd4LEvov t1 olov evLWXOU neL & 6 T aXQOV ToU ovyxQOTcrOeg. TOU L(dgQLtov [tya xat 68bQv vtEpaOkEV 3QOX37TOV 60 XQ( g LJTLOa4tadg 'o Lt 0 E'i5lTa, TQLOXEsXOU, ...ov. ... It went like this. Taking two wooden sticks of equal length, roughly three spithamai[70 cm] or a little frame (A), and more, he assembled a lambda-shaped
den, 1947) (hereafterDe obsid.).
de obsidionetoleranda, ed. H. van den Berg (LeiS8Anonymus LtoXvQ(g L 6T





6 Xa6g. arTd~ There must be a trench to the outside of the infantrymen, and then on the outside of the trench, caltrops must be thrownout, if the host with tzipata and triskelia happens to be carryingany.

is a The entire phrase Ttox~thL petr TUtzdTWy word but the in the Taktika, hapax, occurring only

1917-22) (to 14.38). The only completetext is found in PG 107, cols. 671-1094.

S9Deobsid., p. 53.6-7. 40Ed. R. Vairi, Leonis imperatorisTactica, two vols. (Budapest,

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THE TAKTIKAOF NIKEPHOROS OURANOS by placing another stick, with a length of five or six [1.2-1.4 m], like a spear at the junction of spithamai the two-legged frame he constructed a tripod, which stood firm because of the legs being locked together. To the end of the spear,as it were, he fastened a large, solid point portruding two spithamai, or slightly more [47 cm + ], from the tripod, as described.... Leo goes on to say that Nikephoros used to place these easily improvised and transportable weapons around his encampments to provide a barricade against enemy cavalry attacks, especially if there had not been sufficient time to dig a trench. The TQLtoxkta ET&E TZdTCrTv that Ouranos recommends be placed outside the camp trench will thus described by have been like the tripods (TQLtoxkLa) with the Leo, longer stick, capped by a long blade or point (called a ?LqdQLov by Leo, T7cna by Ourattached to an inverted anos), V-shaped frame at an angle calculated to impale an oncoming attacker or his horse. These weapons, as well as caltrops and other traps, would have been difficult for an enemy to see at night; during the day they would have been effective in slowing down attackers who would have had to pick their way through these visible but dispersed obstacles. The treatises show that such sinister contraptions were routinely set out around temporary encampments or siege camps to reinforce, or on occasion to replace, the usual defenses consisting of a trench and shield palisade, and that they were part of the standard Byzantine repertoire during the tenth and eleventh centuries. The second term, khaoa, appears in Ouranos' discussion of the steps to be taken in preparing for an assault on the enemy fortress (65.14-17):


You must issue instructionsto the entire army to prepare the implements used in siege warfare, laisai made either from vine stalksor from branchesof willow or mulberrytrees. These must be woven together and in great number. They [the laisai]should be like a house in shape; the upper section, that is, the roof, must be quite sharply peaked. They should have two doorways,and each laisamust have room enough for fifteen to twenty men. Hanging over the opening in front it should have a piece made from the same branches acting as a screen to receive projectilesshot from the wall and protect the men inside. .... The laisai must not be heavy,impossibleto lift, but should be rather light, so much so that it is possible to lift and carry them up to the walls, then easilywithdrawthem once again.... Have the men fix the laisai near the wall at a distanceof five to ten orguiai[roughly 10-20 m], and they should bombard the enemy, some with arrows, some with slings; others using the catapults must bombard both the walls and the enemy with stones, while men with sledgehammersand battering rams must break apart the walls.

A clear picture of the design and use of the laisai emerges from Ouranos' account. They were steeply pointed, hut-like shelters which, since they were put together from vines and branches, could be hastily constructed in situ by the besiegers. Although somewhat makeshift, these shelters offered protection to men taking rest (and presumably the wounded), since the besiegers' force was to be divided into three units working in successive shifts to maintain an uninterrupted assault throughout the day. And as the soldiers involved in the siege kept up a constant barrage against the enemy defenders on the parapet, men in the role of sappers sought out a suitable place to tunnel beneath the foundations of the fortress wall and thereby collapse an entire section.41 Ouranos does not say so, but it seems likely that sappers could also have be& T OTQaT( rTOO OX(O noloaL OMaOeaL 'OECXELg 8U&aTdar gun their tunnels in the shelter of the laisai closest T Q6;Jg xaoTQOn6X~tLOV a t6 [lXav1l?LaTa, ha(oag E'TE to the walls. an6 Pf3EQyC(V 7 EATE Wtaga, xh?LtdTv a(7GEXCWOV, 51an Ouranos' d xat 3nokkd. description of the laisai and their use yk tvUQLX(ov. 6E(XkovotL yevYoOat 7kEXEX a aTW Tb iva invites EaTU 6U NQOnELXCg oX~X otxOU. 6& comparison with other known uses of the sLoW 6 Mdvo iQog oLovz6 Tb xatt 68TEQov. term, since o tyog aeuTg khaoa (or the homophonic Xkoa) is also bnOoOUQC8ov, xat iva Xwg O lia Ex- found WXTraOav& 6b several texts and treatises on siege warin doTl haloa a n aV8QCGV ExatVTE f xa1t aLXO OLV. Va fare from the tenth and eleventh centuries. The &" X' xat Eidg T ETqmQooOEvoT6ita 5toXQExIditEVoVbX TV al'Tv of the word T6 6d Q'LT(dg origin may be explained first. It ap3?hXov P3EQyOcV v Qbg 6UoXEOaLt x TEiXovg oxat uidTetelv xat CoTig to have entered pears Byzantine Greek about the 6Aievoa "toU at oev. .... p~t b (agEltaL7Qbg 6 of the tenth yvow t 6&t XaCoatL beginning century, as implied by an t 6?nvoo0oaLt Aa@Q6zegaLt k 6oov 6' 3aodSEoeat, X& anecdote recorded in chapter 51 of the De adminxat auTtag aotLvv8EX6~iEvov Pokodrdo0tat ~gQEOaL 7EQ6 7EQ65 TcsXfl xat 3TdXLv T;L E1'?6Xw; T;L i..o.. .... va q xat 6&fgoOt xat Trag ha0oag 6g O&6Qybulv burrowed beneath the foun41Taktika65.19-21; the
&4xa ?yyig

tva xgoto3ot Toig tX0Qo1g, 6t&d &aoL 6 t oevof36Xoy xat a& xat 68d TO"v Iiayyaytvx6v BxOQog TElfl Toog tiv ~ xQo0oWL CpedE L0oagcoYV, aXoL IET~& 6xvY xat tva oQUoooJL osLcTrWy
1h Telyxl.

7cwve o0 ToU TegCoug, xat ot CLpy bLdl togela;, &6

sappers dations and placed wooden supports under the stones to keep the wall from falling upon them; when they had finished digging under the foundations, they set dry wood in the cavity and ignited it, thereby burning the support beams and collapsing the section of the wall.

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ready very old-for their sieges the Romans had built huts of vines and branches called vinea which continued to be used in the medieval west44-but the widespread use of such shelters in Byzantine siege warfare is first attested in the tenth century. That such plaited screens had come to be called laisai early in the tenth century is acknowledged in a tenth-century poliorcetic treatise attributed to 6 &0QXwv OTog ovy 6 vXugoCEiv, Boukyaglag, taObv Hero of Byzantium.45 Although for the most part xat bT6 3toTaby v TYV to0 3xCw~ltou LQe6g tv, O6tT &Ot6 T6 b Ciitov Toig xaT' awro nuEQd- a compilation of classical manuals on siege weapIXst kL Toi?xoug ons and tactics, the treatise is interspersed with oat, ?3LnOflo(ev Xotag, i'ot Lnoxog toxUQo;gadvuxat C a-VTL current material. At one t oteeFRt(ovug, dort 86vaofatL To;g To6gxouvg point the author refers to xat o Toi3Qxot n3EQav, 6t' "tnvotLav fly bt devised woven together and exlxwX0aloav "the laisai, recently 6 'O o6v noQQfrl0eOg ngr6Tov 3neFQaOt. MLXath xct t~ET tremely light" (xat TTv viYv EX thoxflg wvEU&,Wv &6o th0W(10iv BagQxadg &valXa36CtExat av68QDec ).46 Elsewhere he vot Td oXOUTdLtaxa cnaecOa aotC6v, QgeOELGtov ~laIQdtWcv haoA OQ TO XEhtvl(ovU,xta- recommends the laisai for their lightness and swift OWmaXk 6itaCltx 3X6q80ljOavTEg ag x oag,foTxoL Ttxopav T Toig nkoXog, xat jvottav assembly (again, woven from vines or freshly cut Tbvn6pov Tolg ToiOgxoug. branches), but points out that they should not be used if the approach to the enemy fortress is Jenkins translated the text as follows: steeply inclined since they cannot withstand heavy Now this Symeon, prince of Bulgaria,on learningthat the navy had arrived in the river, and that the navy objects (presumably logs and boulders rolled down was about to carry over the Turks against him, conagainst them); instead, they were most effective on structed mantlets or wicker fencing, very strong and level terrain and could be used to supply cover tough, so that the Turks might not be able to cross when the besiegers attempted to fill in the trenches over, and by this device the Turks were at first preblocking access to the fortifications.47 These exvented from crossing. So the aforesaid Michael Barkalas and two other sailors took up their shields and cerpts on the laisai are attached to the prescripfrom the and down with a swords, tions, standard in classical poliorcetic treatises, deleaping warship brave and powerful rush, cut down the mantlets or tailing different types of "tortoises" (XXS6vaL) or wickerfencing and opened the passagefor the Turks. wooden sheds (sometimes wheeled) constructed as The passage implies that lesa is not of Greek but of protection for soldiers against enemy projectiles as Slavic derivation, and in fact this word is found in they advanced up to the walls. From the context it would appear that the compiler saw the Byzantine medieval Bulgarian and other Slavic languages laisai, hut-like shelters fashioned from vines or wilin the meaning of "dam" or "fencing," specifilow and mulberry branches, as a simpler version of cally that fashioned from interwoven twigs and the ancient "tortoises." They would have been embranches, as befits the context here.43 It is reasonmore able to assume that as a result of this and other commonly because they offered the ployed of encounters the Byzantines emulated the technique simple, quick assembly from mateadvantages and of affording sufficient rials available, and applied the Slavic name to their own barrireadily within while remaining to the soldiers cades or defenses spliced together from vines and protection be to branches. The technique itself, however, was aleasily transported. light enough Other poliorcetic texts show that laisai might
de administrandoimperio, ed. Gy. 42Constantine Porphyrogenitus Moravcsik, trans. R. J. H. Jenkins, CFHB 1 (Washington, D.C. 1967), pp. 250.112-252.120. It is not clear from the passage whether the Bulgars used the laisai as a dam to block traffic along the river or as a barricade along the shore to prevent the Byzantines from crossing the river. Leo VI appears to refer to the same episode in his Taktika(18.42) where he recalls an expedition against the Bulgars in which the Byzantine navy ferried a force of Hungarians (TofQxot) along the Danube ("IorQog),an event dated to the year 895. der mittelgriechischen 43M. A. Triandaphyllides, Die Lehnwiirter (Strassburg, 1909), 150. See the definitions of the Vulgairliteratur word in Slavic languages (with references) listed by M. Vasmer, Russischesetymologisches II (Heidelberg, 1953), 33Wibrterbuch, rechnik,III (Sofia, 1986), s.v., and 34, the Bulgarski etimologichen the Slovar' russkogoiazykaXI-XVII vv (Moscow, 1981), VIII, 211. 44Cf. Ph. Contamine, La guerre au moyen age (Paris, 1980), 208-14. The 6th-century historian Agathias describes how Byzantine soldiers used transportable "wicker roofs" (a device he calls a anCak(v)to shelter them as they approached the walls during the siege of Archaeopolis in 552; see Agathiae Myrinaei historiarumlibri quinque, ed. R. Keydell, CFHB 2 (Berlin, 1967), bk. 3.5.9-11, and J. D. Frendo's translation of the passage in Agathias. The Histories,CFHB 2a (New York-Berlin, 1975), 73. des grecs. Traitisthgoriques-ri~cits 45Ed. C. Wescher, Poliorcdtique historiques(Paris, 1867), 197-279; on the poliorcetic text under the name Hero of Byzantium, see A. Dain, La traditiondu texte d'Hdronde Byzance(Paris, 1933). 46 Hero of Byzantium, ed. Wescher, p. 199.13-14. 47Ibid., pp. 207.17-23 and 209.6.7.

istrandoimperio.During the reign of Leo VI (886912), the Byzantine navy attempted to transport a force of Turks (i.e., Hungarians in Byzantine service) across a river (unnamed, but surely the Danube) during a campaign against the Bulgarian tzar Symeon (893-927), only to find their way blocked :42

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THE TAKTIKAOF NIKEPHOROS OURANOS also be used by the garrison of a besieged fortress. The De obsidione,for instance, advises the defenders of a town awaiting attack "to gather vines and willow or mulberry branches for the construction of laisai necessary to protect the men attending to the siege machines," that is to say, for the construction of woven screens to shield men on the parapet from projectiles as they operated stone- or arrowshooting weapons against the enemy.48 An anonymous compendium of instructions on how to resist sieges, compiled during the tenth century, likewise recommends laisai as protection against enemy projectiles,49 and the eleventh-century Kekaumenos directs the commander expecting a siege to "weave laisai" (nktXov ktoag), presumably for the same purpose.50 According to contemporary treatises, laisai, functioning as protective screens or huts fashioned from vines or branches for attackers and defenders alike, were standard devices in Byzantine siege warfare during the tenth and eleventh centuries. At the same time, however, it is interesting to note that defenders did have countermeasures against besiegers employing laisai as shelters. The De obsidione gives these instructions:5' 6Uxat nQoanxoTl(Ooat Lv TOLg 'AoQo(ELty ntQo[taXiLot xat PaLQEg, xat 68oxobg kXlo0vgtkavag, xactLLtx0oog xat oTql[ovdQLta naxta xat nookkd 689 iva xat~ Tg Wa, iv' 6xn6tav xaTagQQLOf1lvat &xQag 6 &81ELEV,, (6vov Tkeloov, 6taqqryvf6'oVoLv6U o EQydCwvTaLt xat tg khaoag. ii6vovTdg &o~'l6ag, &XUk Gather and set out beforehand blackened stones along the battlements,both smalland heavy,as well as poles and many thick beams of oak sharpened at the
obsid., 48De p. 50.5-7: &OQDOClELV xct gf3Qya 6 xat X taTCal6acg TCV6ELXOVUCOV ? VQQCVa7g LQ6g LTELVg nlOCvlCLV XaLOCOV oxtA passage in the De re nELvtoIFg v ta[g lXavalg Ejo(rrnCag. militari(27.7:MJEtoQO61 L XOaLTE)likewise refers to woven screensset around catapultsand other siege weaponsto protect the operators. 49Ed. A. Dain, "Memoranduminedit sur la d6fense des REG 53 (1940), 124-27. Constructionand use of laisai places," as a defense againstenemy projectilesare recommendedin the sixth precept in the list of instructions,although Dain seems to have identifiedthe term with the classical katooiLov: xat Xafoodg LT T& & Tv noXltCUOv rendered "en lyvoEIvY OxTE Otkl, XO)k1EY ayant pris la precaution de tendre des peaux pour arreter les traitsde l'adversaire." Kekavmena 50Ed. G. G. Litavrin, Sovetyi rasskazy (Moscow, 1972), p. 178.15, with commentson p. 442 (note 468). He translates XtOaLby kanaty, "cables" or "ropes"suspended from the walls as a cushion against enemy battering rams, but Kekaumenos was probablyreferringto plaitedscreenssimilarto those mentioned in the De obsidione. pp. 56.17-57.3; to explain the curioustermk0ovug 51Deobsid., van den Berg refers the reader to a passage in JosetACLavag, War(5.6.3) which describeshow the Romansblackphus'Jewish ened (tEXaCtVELy) the stones fired by their catapultsto make it harder for the enemy to see and avoid them.


tips, so that, whenever it is necessary to cast them down, they will cause great slaughterand breakapart not only shields but also the laisai. An episode portraying the contest between attackers using laisai as cover for their assault on the walls and defenders attempting to destroy them with stones and sharpened beams is recorded by the chronicler Skylitzes. About the year 1050 a Turkish force laid siege to Manzikert and kept the town under constant attack for thirty days, using "various types of siege machines and all kinds of devices," only to be held off by the well-stocked garrison under the capable leadership of the patrikios Basil Apokapes. Despairing of success, the Turkish sultan was on the verge of abandoning the siege and going home when the commander of the Chorasmian contingent, a man named Alkan, intervened:52 ... he requested that [the sultan] remain one day more and entrust the attackon the city to him. Pleased at the request, he delayed the return home. And so early in the morning Alkan gathered his entire host with him, and stationed the sultan as a spectatoron a hill by the eastern gate along with the most distinguished of the Turks. Taking the siege machines, he headed off toward the aforementioned gate, for at that point the city walls appeared to be lower and weaker, while the ground had a rise that was advantageous in a siege, since it allowedthose inside the wall to be bombarded from above by those outside. Dividing his force into two parts, he placed one on the hill and bade them maintain a steady barrageof arrows, while he himself took tents woven together from withes, covered on top with cowhides and with wheels beneath the bases of the supporting posts (they call such devices lesai),and filled them with men carrying pitchforks, shovels, and other agriculturaltools. He intended to push the tents forward little by little and join them to the walls,and thus calmlyand confidently go about undermining the foundations, believing as he did that no one would be able to raise his head above the wall because of the mass of projectiles.He imagined that in this way the city would be taken. As he beheld these activities from the wall, Apokapes gave orders for the soldierson the wallsto remain still and for no one to poke his head up, only to have fistsized rocks at the ready as well as bows and other missile-shooting weapons, to await the signal from him (thiswas "Christ,give thy aid"),and to get to work once it had been given. He also had with him huge beams, sharpened at one end. This was how he made his preparations;Alkan, on the other hand, pushed ahead a little at a time and set the lesaiagainstthe wall while the Turks on the outside launched forth a hail of arrows that seemingly eliminated the men inside the wall. When the tents were already close by and pp. 462.64-464.8.Thisepisodeis unfortunately 52Skylitzes, not depicted in the Madrid Skylitzes.

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ERIC McGEER selves by Chorasmian allies of the Turks who had surely seen these devices in campaigns against the Byzantines along the eastern frontiers. The primary aim of this paper has been to establish chapters 56-65 of the Taktikaof Nikephoros Ouranos as an important source for Byzantine warfare in the east, written by a commander active in that region during the first decade of the eleventh century. Since the discussion has centered on the issue of the conflict between tradition and reality in the tactical treatises, it would be apt to conclude by citing Ouranos' remarks on the utility of the methods he recommends, as opposed to those outlined in the classical treatises on siege operations (Taktika65.22, 25): The men of old, in their pursuitof siege warfare,constructedmany devices such as batteringrams,wooden towers,scalingladders with variousfeatures,tortoises, and all kinds of other things whichour generationcan hardly imagine. It has, however,tried all these devices and found that out of all of them, the most effective way,one the enemy cannot match,is underminingthe foundations, all the more so if one does this with careful scrutiny and method, and has the accompanying and extremely helpful protection of the laisai.... Manyand varied are the means which the men of old contrived for conducting siege warfare,but I have set down only the methods that our generationcurrently employs. The more extraordinarydevices of the ancients I have passed over, and let those eager to learn them study the taktika and find out all about them. Ouranos' words echo comments in a similar vein made by the authors of the De velitationeand De re militari, who restrict their own discussions of siege operations to the practicable methods currently in use and likewise refer the interested reader to the more recondite ancient treatises on siege equipment and tactics.53 These remarks do not mean that Ouranos and his fellow soldier-authors considered the ancient treatises valueless-indeed, these texts were evidently read as potentially useful sources of information and ideas well worth knowing as part of a good soldier's backgroundbut instead that when they came to the discussion of siege operations, or other types of warfare in their own day, these Byzantine tacticians chose to instruct the reader not by what they had read, but by what they had used or seen themselves.
"5Cf. De velitatione 21.12-17 (ed. Dennis in Three Byzantine Military Treatises,137-239) and De re militari, 27.3-13.

their withdrawalappeared impossible, suddenly, on Apokapes' signal, the men deployed by the beams hurled the beams down upon the tents while the rest let fly with bows and stones. Thereupon the tent holding Alkan, pierced through the roof by many beams, was knocked over by their weight and completely overturned. When it was overturned, those inside became exposed and were bombardedfrom everywhere by stones and archery,with no one able to ward them off. All the others fell dead on the spot, and Alkan, conspicuous because of the brightness of his armor, was taken prisoner. Two virtuous youths sprang forward from the city gates, and seizing him by the hair, dragged him inside the citadel. Basil immediatelycut off his head and displayedit on a spear to the Turks, whereupon the sultan, stricken with anguish, broke the siege and went home.... In many details this episode closely corresponds to the directions issued in the treatises concerning the use of the laisai and the methods for stopping them. The ill-fated Alkan proceeded to employ wheeled laisai to approach and undermine the walls in a manner consistent with that prescribed by Ouranos, while Apokapes and his men gathered stones and heavy, sharpened beams to smash them once they had been pushed up to the walls. Here it is worth recalling that in his treatise Ouranos advised fixing the laisai 10-20 m from the wall and then sending sappers out to undermine the foundations. In light of the foregoing passage, this seems to have been a precaution intended to keep the laisai out of range of stones and beams hurled down from the parapet, for it was the Chorasmians' advancing their laisai to the base of the wall in the belief that the defenders were pinned down that enabled Apokapes' men to bombard them so devastatingly. Ouranos appears to have taken this possible ploy by the defenders into account when setting down his instructions for using the laisai in sieges, a sign that from his experience he was familiar with the antidote which the defenders of a fortress were likely to employ against these shelters. Beyond confirming and elucidating the precepts on siege warfare in the treatises, however, Skylitzes' narrative is interesting testimony to the constant emulation and refinement of enemy weapons and tactics so characteristic of the Byzantines and their foes. In this case plaited laisai, first used by the Bulgarians as barricades against the Byzantines, were subsequently adopted by the Byzantines for use as protective screens and huts by attackers and defenders alike in sieges, and as such ended up being used against the Byzantines them-

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The seal proclaiming Nikephoros Ouranos "master of the East" is one of two unpublished seals bearing his name in the DumbartonOakscollection. Both are edited here; the illustrationsare enlarged at a scale of 1.5 to 1. (1) Fogg 1576-Diameter: 28 mm. Weight:9.70 g. Crackedalong the channel (obverse)and corroded along the circumference. Effaced on the top line and along the left side of the reverse. Obverse: Bust of the Virgin, flanked by the inscription: MP-..: M(Ai'q)Q[0(eo)e]. The remains of a circular inscription,beginning at seven o'clock,are visiblein the lower left and upper right quarters: +eKSe.....Tt...... Border of dots. Reverse:An inscription of six lines and a decoration below.Border of dots.


botky NLx06]Q(p,) 0(eor6)xep[oJ0esL] 'c' [ax0 [T]C ['Av]aroXg Tqg xa[@o9]vTL


iayoi[(]Q(a) (v




4 ?

1 po


It is worth noting that family names on seals were normally shortened by dropping the termination, whereas in this case the engraver has abbreviated the name Ouranos by using the scribalcontraction ov-og (for otQav6g, or "heaven")and adding the terminationin the dative case.

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(2) Fogg 1509-Diameter: 31 mm.; field: 25 mm. Weight: 13.60 g. Corroded on the obverse and crackedin the upper left quarter on the reverse. Obverse: Bust of the Virgin orans, the medallion of Christ before her. On either side the inscripAn inscriptionof six lines. Border of dots. Reverse: +eI6"eRolHe6ITU ICU4OVAUI1IIH'OP,I TUOVPAI-NUT oP bo O(Eot6)XE I30oeAL 0) Okpavq tc NLxlq46QU(()

tion: MFP--v: Borderof dots. O(Eo)i,. M(rMl)Q


t;?-t I.q. '..


, .-.




The absence of a title rules out certain identification, but it is very probable that this is a personal seal issued by our Nikephoros Ouranos sometime in the last decade of the tenth century or the first decade of the eleventh. Such a dating is secure on grounds of epigraphy, supported by the close resemblance in lettering between this specimen and a seal of PatriarchSergios II struck between 1001 and 1019 (N. Oikonomides, A Collection of Dated Lead D.C., Seals 1986], no. Byzantine [Washington, 74). This dating is also consistent with Ouranos' estimated lifetime (ca. 950-1010), making it unlikely that an ancestor or descendant of the same

name (who would have to be a grandfather or grandson, in keeping with the Byzantine custom) could have issued the seal. It is possible that the seal could be that of a contemporary Nikephoros Ouranos who belonged to a collateral branch of the family,but the rare mentions of the name Ouranos in seals and documents of the tenth and eleventh centuries do not suggest that such a branch existed. Universit6de Montr6al and DumbartonOaks

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